Last Sunday, I was at a party at a friend's house, and one of the guests got literally falling-down drunk. So be it; not everybody does as good a job of holding their liquor, and some people actually like (and some hosts actually tolerate) getting so sloppy drunk they can't even walk. No big deal. No big deal, that is, until along about 10 or 11 pm, the drunk decided it would be a crisis of biblical proportions if he didn't get home to feed his dogs before morning, so he had to drive home, right now. We stopped him by talking him out of it. Then we had to stop him from making a break for the door; it took four of us to get him away from the door, sitting down, and agreeing to wait for the cab we called for him. But because of last weekend's storms (which are what's reminding me, we're having a lovely one now, too), the cabs were running too slow for him ... so he made another break for his car. It took three of us to stop him, but it was made easier by the fact that he was so falling-down drunk that he went arse-over-teakettle trying to navigate his way down a half a flight of porch steps, even while clinging desperately to the railing. We got him away from his car, assured him the cab would be here any minute now ... and he waited until we were distracted by the storm, and made another break for it, almost making it into his car before the biggest of us tackled him. It took physical force and threats of a 911 call to distract him long enough for the host to actually pick his pocket and steal his keys. Which he responded to, over the next several minutes, with plaintive pleas for his keys, and with two attempts to take his keys back from the host via deception in one case, then force.
I'm religiously contemptuous of people who get that drunk. But that's not the part that's been gnawing at me all week. The part that's been gnawing at me all week is this: the whole time, he kept insisting he was completely, perfectly, 100% sober. He couldn't walk two steps on flat level flooring without holding onto something. He couldn't navigate three stair-steps while holding onto the railing without falling down. And he couldn't speak a sentence longer than four words without losing his train of thought and trailing off into awkward silence for long, long seconds at a time. But he was still convinced, or at least thought it was plausible to convince us, that he was sober and safe to drive. And you know what? I can almost, not really but almost, excuse that in someone the very first time they get drunk, if they've never been confronted with external evidence of how impaired they are when they're in that condition. But this guy's as old as I am, and been drinking even longer, and he still hasn't learned better? Inexcusable.
But you know what? I've been around a lot of intoxicated people in my almost 48 years of life, intoxicated on just about everything ever invented to get off on except (oddly enough) cocaine, heroin, or PCP. I've been around people who were trashed out of their mind on drugs you've maybe never even heard of. And I'm told that what I'm about to say may not actually be true about cocaine, so I'll accept that caveat, that possible exception to what I'm about to say, which is this: with only that one possible exception, I have noticed this huge and glaring difference between drunks and between stoners, and it's that only the drunks don't think that they're intoxicated. Drunks insist that they're completely fine, and then go on to demonstrate their confidence that they're completely fine by attempting physical feats that are flatly impossible for them in their current condition. The results range from minor property damage up to and including mass murder by driving their cars at 100 mi/hr and up head on into busloads of orphans, all of them insisting the whole way to anyone who tries to stop them, "leave me alone, I'm fine." Stoners, on the other hand, without exception I have ever seen, not only know that they're screwed up, not only tend to sit almost completely still because they know they're too screwed-up to function, on top of that? How screwed up they are is practically all they can talk about, or at least topic #1 of any conversation, the one they keep coming back to.
And even after studying the culture and physiology and history and theology of alcohol at substantial length? (And not for the first time, let me recommend an extraordinarily good book on the subject, Stephen Braun, Buzz: The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine.) I am still baffled as to why this is. But I have long past had it up to here with it.